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Care for Potted Palm Trees

By Dale Devries ; Updated September 21, 2017

Palm trees can add a tropical feel to your landscape or your home. Growing them in containers has added challenges, but it can be done with special care. There are some species of palms that are smaller and don’t require much light, making them the best species for containers. They are still quite fragile when young, but are strong and tolerant as adult trees. Even the smaller varieties can become large, so container size, space and the ability to re-pot the tree every couple years are important to their survival.

Keep the soil damp. During the spring and summer the soil should always feel damp to the touch, but not soggy. In the fall start to cut back watering and in the winter allow the top couple of inches of soil to dry out before watering again.

Move the container out of direct sunlight as the light in the room or landscape changes. Palm trees need indirect light for a few hours a day, but direct sun will burn the fronds. Keeping it in the shade will also help to keep it small and more manageable.

Use a fertilizer made specifically for palm trees. Follow the manufacturer's directions for amount to use. Do not let the fertilizer touch the trunk of the tree.

Watch the soil for salt buildup, which can come from fertilizer and water and is common in container plants. It will show up as a white crust on the soil and container and can damage the tree. If this happens, you should water the tree heavily a few times to rinse out the salt. In severe cases, the tree will need to be removed from the container and have the roots washed off of all soil. Then re-pot immediately.

Spray the leaves with water at least once a week in the summer and more in the winter if the tree is kept indoors. In the summer it is more beneficial to take the tree outdoors during a good rain. This cleans the leaves and allows them to absorb water.

Keep indoor potted palms on a tray filled with small pebbles and water during the winter. This will give them most of the humidity they need to battle the dry air of central heat.

Transplant the potted palms into larger containers about every two years or when you see the roots starting to come out of the container's drain holes. Use a mixture of peat moss, perlite, course sand and top soil in equal parts. There is no need to spread the roots when transplanting. The tree may decline for about two weeks after transplanting, but should start to perk up after the roots get re-established.


Things You Will Need

  • Palm tree fertilizer
  • Peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Course sand
  • Top soil
  • Larger container than the one the palm is currently in
  • Spray bottle
  • Drain tray
  • Pebbles
  • Pruning shears


  • Take indoor palms outside for some fresh air in the warm weather. Just remember to keep them out of direct sunlight.